By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 10:45 am
No matter how cool Google’s Chrome OS turns out to be, chances are you’re not going to use it. The company says the OS will roll out on netbooks in the second half of 2010; even if said netbooks are major hits, the vast majority of us will go on using systems based on Windows, OS X, or Linux for a long time to come.
Which makes me wonder whatever happened to another Google big idea that could have a bigger impact much more quickly: GDrive. That’s the service that would give consumers a virtual hard drive on the Internet, letting them store all their stuff remotely. Google has never formally announced such a service, but rumors have persisted for years–here’s a Michael Arrington story from March, 2006–and clues that it’s in the works pop up every so often. It seems to be real, even though we don’t know when Google will release it–assuming it will someday.
There’s nothing inherently awe-inspiring about the idea of online storage: Services like i-Drive were around more than a decade ago, and Microsoft will give you 25GB of space in the form of a Windows Live SkyDrive right now. If GDrive is just another hunk of remote disk space, it would be no big whoop. But if Google gave you a lot of space and tightly integrated it with Gmail, Google Docs, and other Web apps, GDrive could look less like an old-fashioned online drive and more like an entirely Web-based OS that was reachable from any browser.
In pitching Chrome OS, Google says that people “want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files.” That would seem to suggest that Chrome OS incorporates GDrive, or something like it. Maybe GDrive hasn’t shown up yet in part because it’s closely related to the Chrome OS project.
Which leaves me wondering whether Google could release a service that was, essentially, Chrome OS’s user interface and Web-based components–but in a form that work in any browser. It could bring part of Chrome OS’s godness to the 99% of us who won’t be buying a Chrome netbook, and it could be really cool…